Most plumbing projects today, especially those done by do-it-yourselfers, involve the use of PEX tubing for water supplies. It is so much easier to use than copper and nearly defunct materials like polybutylene and galvanized iron. There are a lot of ways that a professional plumber can install PEX, using fancy tools that are expensive. For a guy like me, whose main considerations include a secure and leak-free fitting without a lot of expense, it pretty much comes down to the use of two very different ways to make connections.
Here is a picture showing the inner dimension of a piece of ½” PEX:
The first method of making connections is with insertable fittings. They come in all configurations like tees, couplers, end stops, and valves. Using inexpensive specialized clamps and clamping pliers, connections can be made in seconds. No glue or soldering is needed, of course. (You already knew that!) The fittings themselves are very reasonably priced. These are what I’m calling “inzies” because they go INTO the PEX. Here’s the part that many people don’t think about. Note the inside diameter of this elbow fitting:
Installing a couple of fittings into a “half-inch” (see dimension above) tube won’t make that much difference in the total flow, but installing a lot of them certainly will. Each one will have a small role in reducing the water flow. The end result is easy installation, low cost, but potentially reduced flow. Here’s a picture of a typical valve using the insert method of connecting:
The second method is even easier, and that’s using press-fit connections. Most people call them “Sharkbites” because of that company’s dominance in the marketplace, but there are other companies that make nearly identical products. Those fittings are “outzies,” meaning they go OVER the PEX tubing.
Here’s a picture of a typical coupler using the push-fit method of connecting:
When installed over the tubing, any restriction to flow is minimized. The downside is that each press-fit connector likely costs as much as a bagful of the “inzies” mentioned above! Easy installation, but high cost. If you have a lot of connections and are concerned with the flow, an alternative is to use larger tubing (which is relatively inexpensive) and the “inzies” that are appropriate for it. In any case, using as few connectors as possible is the best idea, and also lessens the likelihood of a leak.
The “outzies” have a lot of other advantages, like being able to connect to multiple types of material including PEX, copper, plastic, and polybutylene. They can also be removed and reused, and can be installed in wet conditions (water on and even in the pipe) so those perks may offset the cost.
I personally use both systems of connections, but I like the “inzies” for low-flow situations (like a bathroom faucet which likely has a flow limiter on it anyway) to keep the cost low, and the “outzies” for higher flow locations like supplies to a washing machine or a hose bib. Just something to think about.
I hope all your projects go well. Thanks for reading, and happy restoring!
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